In November 2018, I started panic-writing Copycat. Little did I know then that the book would be the beginning of a long-term relationship with my central characters: DI Melanie Watton, DS Edd Carter, and DC Chris Burton. These three were the central figures of the story, and they naturally became the central figures of Play, too, which came out earlier this year. Not one to let go of my loves easily, I also went ahead and wrote a third book. Untitled (it definitely hasn’t a title, but I don’t know whether I’m allowed to tell you) was accepted by Bloodhound Books just last week; the contract was signed, and the date was sort of set.
But that will be the last of my DI Melanie Watton novels. For the time being, at least.
My publisher – my kind, open and honest publisher – suggested that I try a psychological thriller next. It would be my first since Intention, which came out in January 2019. That book is a story and a half, given that the novel itself was actually my doctoral thesis, and I can’t tally the days, weeks and months that went into that book because of that. That might also be the reason why I’d steered away from another first-person thriller. Gillian, my protagonist, was a hard woman to love, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that kind of commitment again.
Flash-forward to now.
I am writing a new first-person psychological thriller. I know, I know! I absolutely caved based on my publisher’s advice, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t good advice. My new novel is a first-person narrative of an unnamed narrator, and I am utterly obsessed with it. In the first week of writing I got down 20,000 words, a writing rate that I’ve never managed before – and, realistically, will likely not manage again. We’re into week two now and the writing has slowed, but the obsession definitely hasn’t.
It’s the first book I’ve written in a series of parts. While writing part one, I was busy planning part two – using a spreadsheet no less, but we’ll talk about that another time. While rolling through my chapters – all of which were planned with the above spreadsheet – I was also quietly thinking about chapters for the next section. Then, quite out of nowhere on Sunday morning, I decided the final parts of the book, including the ending. Now, if you’re a writer, you’ll know what a freakin’ hallelujah moment that is. If you’re a reader, let me tell you, you’re in for a treat if this book gets to print because I’ve done pretty well with this (that sentence is the literary equivalent of “felt cute, might delete later” if ever there was one).
What I love most about this new book is my enthusiasm for it. I am constantly thinking about it; how I can make this more obscure or that more tense. Of course, I’ve loved every second spent working on the Watton novels (and I still love the characters completely), but a change of pace in terms of character and (sub)genre has encouraged just that – a change of pace. In my thinking and my writing alike, I’m moving a little differently because my character calls for it.
It wasn’t until I thought, “Wow, this has never happened before,” that I realised, actually, it has – when I started writing Copycat! It’s no coincidence, then, that Copycat was the first detective novel I’d ever written, making it a huge change of pace from everything I’d worked on up to that point. Both then and now, there has been a shift in my writing that has – I don’t know – loosened something in my brain, my inhibitions, maybe even both.
The whole experience of working on this new book, if nothing else, has been a welcome kick to try something new – or rather, something old, considering that psychological thrillers were where I started. Either way, it turns out that sometimes a change really is as good as a rest – at least when it comes to writing.